I joke, and bitch about being raised by a drug addict, lobotomy candidate, born again Christian–at times-Mother. As expected with any “chemically imbalanced individual,” she also went through plenty of other “fun”phases as well. These numerous, and entertaining aspects of her life provide me with plenty of fodder for blame. From the time I can remember, up until I was eleven or twelve she didn’t eat much, which means I didn’t either. I’m not sure if this was due in small to our financial situation, or if it was just the disconnect in her head.
Our cupboards were meager and sad with items like peanut butter, canned tuna, canned sardines, a box of saltines, oatmeal, prunes, and if I was lucky, granola bars. She still likes to brag about her eating habits of that era as well. She recalls her weight fondly, “Shannon, do you remember when I was 100 pounds?” “Uhhu.” She likes to repeat herself too. “Shannon, do you remember when we lived on Melrose and I was a 100 pounds? All I ate was Sardines and drank Tab.” “Umhm.”
I remember being jealous of the other kids at summer daycare who brought ham and mayonnaise sandwiches, and fruit roll-ups, in contrast to my peanut butter on wheat, and mushy banana. Making trades was impossible.
I was deprived of crispy morsels of sugar and salt, even in the form of Kool-Aid. We never had Coke, or baked goods, chips, or treats. I could occasionally find a tobacco covered M&M at the bottom of her pocketbook, or half a stick of Juicy Fruit chewing gum. I turned into a shoplifter when I went to friend’s houses. I’d swipe snacks from their cabinets, swallowing them quickly without much enjoyment. There was always a boxes of frozen Klondike bars, and other junk food items at one house in particular. I would eat two and three frozen treats at a time after packing away their boiled ham, Capri Suns and Cheetos. I really knew how to pick my friends. I’m surprised her mother let me visit more than once, especially after she walked in on my Barbie dolls making love.
The other kitchens I frequented the most were those of my Maw Maw’s, and Father’s. I spent every weekend with one or the other. My mother would drop me off at Maw Maw’s on the weekends. We’d pull into her long driveway, and I’d sneak in through her backdoor off the screened-in porch. Her porch was decorated with noisy wind chimes and lounging furniture. I’d find her stretched out like a like a 50’s throw back in her horn-rimmed glasses and beauty shop-hairdo. She’d see me and say, “Awhoo, Shannon, you scared me.” She’d recline up from her lazy-bot chair position and lead me straight for the kitchen. She was old world Southern, with sweet-tea charm.
My Father would pick me up the next day. I’d watch out the kitchen window for his truck, anticipating a trip to Dairy Queen, or something good to eat. My father was young and just trying to figure it out. He’d walk in with wet hair, and smelling like dial soap. “He’d kiss me with a tickle of whiskered stubble. “Hey Shannon.” Then he’d kiss her, “Hey momma.” “Hey Jimmy, she’d laugh and tease him about something.”Look at that hair. Are you growing it out?” Nobody yelled, or tried to cover up anything dark.
Those weekends were food vacations for me, not only full of rich nourishment for my belly, but they also filled me with a sense of well-being and contentment. I’m certain it had to do with a lot more than just the food, but the memory of the good eats is what remains stuck in my ribs.
My weekend visits weren’t filled with rage and strife, dysfunction and lack of boundaries. They were wholesome, and safe, and served up with blueberry pancakes dripping in butter, and pepperoni pizza well-done, with extra sauce, the smell of country-bacon frying in the skillet, and fudge-brownies baking in the oven. Food became a source of comfort for me, a reprieve from the thin tempered source of anxiety in my childhood.
I brought this Paula Dean-love of food-blanket with me into adulthood. I often find refuge in sweet or salty confidants. The other night Susan and I were at a fantastic Greek restaurant here in Atlanta. One of her clients gave her a gift card to the Buckhead Life restaurant group. We (She) chose to go to Kyma for their delicious selection of fresh, Mediterranean fish. I agreed, recalling the donuts on the dessert menu as being an incredibly sticky lovers I couldn’t resist.
But something happened when it came time to order dessert. I handed my power over to her. I asked, “What looks good to you?” hoping my lustful talk about the dough of delight was fruitful. She shocked me and blew the wind out of my momentum, “I want to try the Greek Yogurt.” “What? The Greek Yogurt! I can make that at home with my Fage’, all they do is add honey and nuts. We can make that at home. I eat Greek Yogurt everyday.” She was pissed. “If you knew what you wanted in the first place then why did you ask?” “I don’t know, I was trying to be nice.” I’m not sure why I asked, maybe I was looking for permission to get all freaky with my sweets, but I’m not positive. Then I became upset. “You know I’ve been thinking about those donuts all week.” She said, “Order them, and I’ll get the yogurt” but I couldn’t. I knew I couldn’t be left alone with all eight. I didn’t trust myself with them, they’re too good.
We finally agreed on the desert sampler, which consisted of two scoops of yogurt, and two donuts. The fancy plate was $8.00, which annoyed me since the full order of holes is only $7.00, but in the end, we both got what we wanted. And isn’t that what life is all about: compromise? Even though I felt deprived of good food during the week, my grandmother and father spoiled me with richness on the weekends. I had it all and just couldn’t see it until now. In addition, I wouldn’t have all these fun facts to write about. Boy, oh Boy, am I lucky or what? Time to eat.